National statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde at the High-Level Segment of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council


24 February 2020, Geneva

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Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde
Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde, Geneva Photo: Kajsa Aulin

Thank you, Madam President, High Commissioner, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

This is the first time I have addressed the Human Rights Council. It is a great honour.

I would like to begin by stating three things.

First, that Sweden reaffirms its support to the Human Rights Council and its unique and important role to address, prevent and remedy human rights violations and abuses. We continue to safeguard the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner and the special procedures.

Second, that we, in this hall, represent a world where human rights are being pushed back and democracy is in decline. This is a global trend that warrants our urgent action just as the Secretary General spoke of this morning when presenting his Call to Action on Human Rights. Which Sweden fully supports. Let us all keep in mind that our obligations as states are towards the individual as the rights bearer and that all our work should be guided by a Human Rights Based Approach.

Third, that multilateral cooperation and dialogue are needed more than ever. It is when we disagree that we need to come closer. Talk more. Try our utmost to build support for democratic values.

And against this background, I wish to add a fourth point: Sweden's response.

Madam President,

The first one, you already know. Few world leaders have not heard of Sweden's Feminist Foreign Policy. Some of you may think: do we need to hear this again?

To you I say: yes, actually, you do.

Because half of the world's population still does not enjoy the same rights, representation and resources as the other half.

As long as women's and girls' enjoyment of human rights is considered less important to that of men and boys, the world stands to lose.

It stands to lose in terms of peace and security. It stands to lose in terms of economic development.

And it stands to lose in terms of democratic participation and social justice.

Not applying a feminist perspective simply means losing out on half of the potential human capital. What nation in today's world can afford that?

So, Sweden will continue pushing for respect for women's and girls' full enjoyment of human rights. This includes women's equal participation in political, economic and social life, and not least sexual and reproductive health and rights for all – a crucial prerequisite for the enjoyment of other rights.

It is our firm position that every person should have the right to decide freely over their own body, sexuality and reproduction, free from discrimination, coercion and violence.

These efforts are especially important this year, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the 20th anniversary of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and the 5th anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals. This is a year of delivery.

We will also continue to push for the protection of the human rights of LGBTI persons. Sweden's position is crystal clear: human rights are universal and apply to all.

Everyone must be able to fully enjoy their human rights whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity.

It is the duty of states to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all persons, without discrimination of any kind.

Madam President,

The second initiative Sweden offers in response to today's global challenges is our Drive for Democracy.

For years, the protection and promotion of human rights, multilateral cooperation and the rules-based international order has been the foreign policy identity of Sweden.

Today, we are facing new challenges.

Three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, liberal democracy is coming under increasing pressure – in all parts of the world, even in stable democracies.

People's frustration is growing. Social and economic inequality, corruption and lack of a genuine social contract are fuelling this frustration and sowing the seeds of discord. Populism is on the rise.

Civil society and the free media are seeing their legitimate space shrink.

These are dangerous trends.

This is why my Government has added this new focus area to our foreign policy. The Drive for Democracy initiative cuts across our comprehensive foreign policy engagement. It runs parallel with our feminist foreign policy, and the two agendas are mutually reinforcing.

We will work with countries, multilateral organisations and civil society to highlight the role of democracy in equality, participation, sustainable development, inclusive growth, governance, human rights and security. Action to promote and strengthen the role of political parties and media freedom is crucial in this regard.

Trade union rights are also a key component of our Drive for Democracy. In certain countries, standing up for trade unions and decent working conditions means risking your life. This is unacceptable.

As part of the Drive, we will emphasize the rule of law – from the democratic fundamentals of legislation to combatting corruption to fighting for accountability. I have directed the Foreign Service to increase its contribution to the fight against organized crime – that parasitic drain on democratic societies.

Madam President,

I would like to conclude by saying this:

Democracy is being eroded, so Sweden is mobilising.

Human rights are being challenged, so Sweden is strengthening its resolve.

Throughout the entire Swedish Foreign Service, we are stepping up our efforts to strengthen democracy and human rights. We want to strengthen the conversation about the principles of democracy, the merits of democracy, and the urgent need to safeguard democracy.

We will ask you all – governments, international organisations and civil society actors – to engage with us.

Because global conversations, dialogue and cooperation are needed more than ever.

This is how we build peace and security. Sustainable and inclusive growth. Freedom and justice.

This is standing up for human rights.

Thank you.